AllyCAD Showcase

Half a Century of Design

John Kingsley-Hall,
Eastern Cape

He's been designing buildings for nearly half a century and is in no hurry to slow down or retire. Architect John Kingsley-Hall received his degree in 1954 from Natal University and has designed buildings as diverse as a Hindu temple, churches, homes, hospitals and even a beach theatre as well as an energy saving building.

With his early days spent in Swaziland, John says he got a good grounding before taking up a post as the deputy municipal architect of East London in 1960. After a stint as the city's principal architect he returned to the private sector in 1968 as a partner at Marston & Hirst.

It was with them that he became involved in a number of big projects for the government - most significantly a number of hospitals in the border area. "Our biggest hospital was the King Williams Town hospital which was built 15 years ago," he said.

Other projects undertaken by the firm during his 25-year tenure included the Physed department, Old Mutual Pavilion and Students' Union for Rhodes University as well as the large Independence Stadium at Bisho. "We worked on a very tight schedule on the stadium - we had to design and complete it in six months," he said adding that the thing that sticks clearly in his mind is that just one week before the facility was opened there was still no grass on the field. Designed to accommodate a crowd of 50 000 people, the stadium however, got the finishing touches of some roll-on grass in time for the official opening.

But it was the design of a Hindu Temple that really sticks out in this architect's mind. Having designed six homes for an Indian family, he was asked to complete the drawings for a Hindu Temple. "I knew nothing about the Hindu religion," he said adding that he had been given examples of work done in India. He laughs as he recalls one small oversight when completing the design. "I didn't realise that in one of their ceremonies they sacrifice a goat and they roast it inside the temple," he says explaining that he had made no allowances for the smoke to escape, but that a flue had had to be added at the last minute.

Designing hospitals
John Kingsley-Hall remained a partner with the Marston & Hirst until 1990 when both other partners went into retirement and he decided to go it alone. Since then he has continued to design a variety of buildings and remains involved in hospital work, having gained valuable experience in this area.

"Hospitals have taken up a big part of my professional life," he says, adding; "When I joined Marston we were one of two architects in town to get CPA hospital work."

Working in association with two other architects, today John once again finds himself involved in hospital work. They are working on the revamp of the Cecilia Makowane hospital - the second biggest hospital in the country.
  Energy saving building
John set himself another challenge recently when he entered a competition to design an energy saving building for East London. Winning the competition, the project only got as far as the drawing that now hangs on his office wall.

The brief was to create an energy saving building that could be used to educate people about technologies such as solar power and wind power. "This was quite a technical challenge," says John who managed to design a structure that relied on solar power for heating and electricity and wind power for pumping and recycling water. In addition it was attached to a greenhouse for the cultivation of exotic plants. Unfortunately, however, the sponsors died on them and so it did not get past the drawing stage.

Domestic work provides variety
It is Frank Lloyd Wright's use of open spaces that has influenced much of John's work over the years particularly in his domestic projects that date back to his early days. Presently he is working on two houses and a children's hostel in Morgan Bay.

Explaining the variety inherent in domestic projects, he says that one of his clients was adamant that he wanted his house built of stone. "I had to be a detective to find out where to get the stone," he said adding that it could not be sourced too far away due to transport costs. He eventually found an engineer who was quarrying the right kind of stone for the project. "The client didn't want a dark grey granite so we had to hunt around - I visited farms in the neighbourhood to find the right stone," he said.

He admits that he has had to try persuade some other clients to change their minds on certain design details, but also is happy to have had some clients with strong ideas and attention to detail. One particular client springs to mind - a librarian who he says made him far more aware of interior design. "Down to the last detail of her cupboards and the things next to her telephone," she was meticulous about the small details.

Clearly it's the details that set architects apart and John is quick to admit that the advent of computer technology is a godsend for the profession. "Life would have been magic if I'd had a computer at varsity," says John who graduated in the 1950's.

John was introduced to computers by his eldest son who sold him a "Mickey mouse thing from the DOS era" in his earlier days of drawing. Now using the AllyCAD package for his drawings he likens the process to drawing. "With AllyCAD it's like drawing on a drawing board - it's that easy."

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